How to survive a Cochrane Colloquium

Muriah Umoquit is Communications and Analytics Officer with Cochrane’s Knowledge Translations team. She has attended and presented at many academic conferences before, with Vienna 2015 being her first Colloquium. 

Is the Cochrane Colloquium your first big conference? Perhaps you’re excited and a bit nervous, maybe not sure exactly what to expect? Fear not! We’ve put together a list of tips and ideas to help you navigate multiple days of intensive interaction with your health, sanity, and collaborative enthusiasm intact!

Taking the plunge – sessions and colleagues

  1. Stick with a session - rather than try and get to every session you really want to, try sitting through all the talks in one session that ties in with a general interest you have. You won’t lose time rushing between rooms and you’ll learn things you wouldn’t otherwise have thought you wanted to know more about.
  2. Introduce yourself and connect – this conference is a great chance to meet people you’ve read about, or who might be doing something interesting in your field. And they want to meet you too! Don’t be shy about introducing yourself and asking questions when you sit next to people in oral sessions, workshops, and breaks. A great event to attend to make the most of the networking opportunities is the 'Meet Cochrane’s CEO, Editor-in-Chief, Governing Board co-chairs and Council' event on Thursday. The 'Pac-Man Rule' is also a nice idea to  keep in mind for including people in conversations at conference.
  3. Newcommers are welcome - not only are first-timer Colloquium attendees welcome, they are celebrated! Stop by the Cochrane Community Booth to pick up up a 'first time attendee' ribbon to add to your name tag. And make sure you add the 'Student, Newcomer, and Early Career Professional Session' to you calendar on the Tuesday - it's a great way to kick-start the Colloquium by making new contacts and getting tips.
  4. Visit the Cochrane Community Exhibition Stand - During all breaks and at lunch we will have helpful Cochrane veterans ready to offer support and give advice and information to those who need it. Stop by the Cochrane Community Exhibition stand and look for someone wearing the lovely purple Cochrane sashes. You can view profiles of some of the people at the booth in advance.

Logistics – navigating the day

  1. Orient yourself - make sure you have your timetable and map (either electronic or on paper) on hand – otherwise it’s always a last-minute stress figuring out where and when you’re supposed to be places!
  2. Pack snacks – the meetings start early, your hotel breakfast doesn’t open until 8am, and there’s no shop in sight. Or maybe you’re too busy talking and forget to eat during the breaks. Make sure you have some emergency snacks packed in your bag to keep you going through the day.
  3. Make the most of breaks - they are when you are most likely to see old friends and make new ones. Lack of formality helps to break down some of the barriers and ease conversation. It’s a perfect opportunity to talk to people you recognize as email addresses.

Personal well-being – maintaining your perspective

  1. Schedule down time - plan your social diary to keep some time back for yourself. It’s tempting to use the evenings to see who’s in the bar, but you can avoid fatigue by going for a run/swim, or just going to bed early and reading. Check out the recommended tours and plan some time to see beautiful Chile.
  2. Buddy up – it can get lonely if you’re always rushing from one thing to the next, alone. Finding a ‘conference buddy’ and keeping tabs on each other helps.
  3. Check back with your base – after a few 14-hour days it can start to feel as though you’re in a different and very intense world! It can help to schedule time for a Skype call with a friend, family member, or workmate who’s not at the conference and re-connect with your daily life. Fitting in some down-time just by yourself can be great too!

Have you got Colloquium tips of your own to share? Send an email or a tweet so that we can share!

Muriah Umoquit